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Drop 2 Chords – Essential Guitar Voicings

Drop 2 chords are one of the most common jazz guitar shapes, and are built with the root-position interval pattern R-5-7-3.

These powerful chords are used to comp, chord solo, and build chord melodies by the greatest names in jazz guitar history.

Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, George Benson, and others have used drop 2 chords as their harmonic foundation.

Because they’re so popular, drop 2 chords are essential for any student of jazz guitar as you learn to confidently outline jazz chord progressions.

While learning to play drop 2 chord inversions is important, it’s also essential to apply these chord shapes to musical situations.

That’s why, in this lesson you’ll apply drop 2 chords to major and minor ii V Is, and learn a Blues for Alice chord study.

By studying drop 2 inversions, applying them to progressions, and working them on jazz standards, you create a deep understanding of these chords.

Take your time when learning drop 2 chords, there’s no hurry to master these important jazz guitar chords.

Learn one group of inversions, then the next, and make sure to run them through the exercises at the end of this lesson.

Most importantly, apply them to your playing as you take drop 2 chords from the page to the fretboard, and later a real-life musical situation.

 

 

Table of Contents (Click to Skip Down)

 

 

 

 

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What Are Drop 2 Chords?

 

One of the questions I often get from guitarists about jazz guitar chords is:

 

“How do you build a drop 2 chord?”

 

The name drop 2 is used because you take a closed position chord, 1-3-5-7, and “drop” the 2nd note from the top down an octave.

This forms the initial interval pattern 5-1-3-7.

Here’s how that looks to help you visualize this chord construction.

The closed maj7 chord is on the left, the drop 2 maj7 chord shape is on the right.

 

drop 2 chords 1

 

When you drop the 2nd note of any closed-position chord, you produce the following interval patterns for each inversion.

 

  • Root Position – R-5-7-3
  • 1st Inversion – 3-7-R-5
  • 2nd Inversion – 5-R-3-7
  • 3rd Inversion – 7-3-5-R

 

Notice that the 3rd and 7th, and the root and 5th, are always next to each other.

This helps you visualize the intervals within any drop 2 chord you learn on the fretboard.

Lastly, this formula works for any chord type you can think of, you just alter the interval qualities to fit that chord type.

For example, a root position drop 2 7th chord is built R-5-b7-3, a m7 chord would be R-5-b7-b3, etc.

The intervals change to match the chord, but the order of the intervals remains the same.

To help you take these shapes onto the fretboard, take a look at 12 different drop 2 chords for the common chord qualities used in jazz.

Each of these drop 2 chords is written with a C root, so make sure to move them to other keys as you explore these shapes in your jazz guitar practice routine.

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 Maj7 Chords

 

To begin, here are 12 different Cmaj7 drop 2 chords, which have the interval structure:

 

  • Root Position – R-5-7-3
  • 1st Inversion – 3-7-R-5
  • 2nd Inversion – 5-R-3-7
  • 3rd Inversion – 7-3-5-R

 

Here are four inversions of Cmaj7 on the lowest four strings of the guitar.

 

drop 2 chords maj7 1

 

You can now learn these chords on the middle four strings.

 

drop 2 chords maj7 2

 

Finally, you can play these chords on the top 4 strings of the fretboard.

 

drop 2 chords maj7 3

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 7th Chords

 

Here are 12 different C7 drop 2 chords, which have the interval structure:

 

  • Root Position – R-5-b7-3
  • 1st Inversion – 3-b7-R-5
  • 2nd Inversion – 5-R-3-b7
  • 3rd Inversion – b7-3-5-R

 

Here are four inversions of C7 on the lowest four strings of the guitar.

 

drop 2 chords 7 1

 

You can now learn these chords on the middle four strings.

 

drop 2 chords 7 2

 

Finally, you can play these chords on the top 4 strings of the fretboard.

 

drop 2 chords 7 3

 

 

 

Drop 2 m7 Chords

 

Here are 12 different Cm7 drop 2 chords, which have the interval structure:

 

  • Root Position – R-5-b7-b3
  • 1st Inversion – b3-b7-R-5
  • 2nd Inversion – 5-R-b3-b7
  • 3rd Inversion – b7-b3-5-R

 

Here are four inversions of Cm7 on the lowest four strings of the guitar.

 

 

drop 2 chords m7 1

 

You can now learn these chords on the middle four strings.

 

drop 2 chords m7 2

 

Finally, you can play these chords on the top 4 strings of the fretboard.

 

drop 2 chords m7 3

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 m7b5 Chords

 

Here are 12 different Cm7b5 drop 2 chords, which have the interval structure:

 

  • Root Position – R-b5-b7-b3
  • 1st Inversion – b3-b7-R-b5
  • 2nd Inversion – b5-R-b3-b7
  • 3rd Inversion – b7-b3-b5-R

 

Here are four inversions of Cm7b5 on the lowest four strings of the guitar.

 

drop 2 chords m7b5 1

 

You can now learn these chords on the middle four strings.

 

drop 2 chords m7b5 2

 

Finally, you can play these chords on the top 4 strings of the fretboard.

 

drop 2 chords m7b5 3

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 dim7 Chords

 

Here are 12 different Cdim7 drop 2 chords, which have the interval structure:

 

  • Root Position – R-b5-bb7-b3
  • 1st Inversion – b3-bb7-R-b5
  • 2nd Inversion – b5-R-b3-bb7
  • 3rd Inversion – bb7-b3-b5-R

 

Here are four inversions of Cdim7 on the lowest four strings of the guitar.

 

drop 2 chords dim7 1

 

You can now learn these chords on the middle four strings.

 

drop 2 chords dim7 2

 

Finally, you can play these chords on the top 4 strings of the fretboard.

 

drop 2 chords dim7 3

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 mMaj7 Chords

 

Here are 12 different CmMaj7 drop 2 chords, which have the interval structure:

 

  • Root Position – R-5-7-b3
  • 1st Inversion – b3-7-R-5
  • 2nd Inversion – 5-R-b3-7
  • 3rd Inversion – 7-b3-5-R

 

Here are four inversions of CmMaj7 on the lowest four strings of the guitar.

 

drop 2 chords mMaj7 1

 

You can now learn these chords on the middle four strings.

 

drop 2 chords mMaj7 2

 

Finally, you can play these chords on the top 4 strings of the fretboard.

 

drop 2 chords mMaj7 3

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 7#11 Chords

 

Here are 12 different C7#11 drop 2 chords, which have the interval structure:

 

  • Root Position – R-#11-b7-3
  • 1st Inversion – 3-b7-R-#11
  • 2nd Inversion – #11-R-3-b7
  • 3rd Inversion – b7-3-#11-R

 

Here are four inversions of C7#11 on the lowest four strings of the guitar.

 

drop 2 chords 7#11 1

 

You can now learn these chords on the middle four strings.

 

drop 2 chords 7#11 2

 

Finally, you can play these chords on the top 4 strings of the fretboard.

 

drop 2 chords 7#11 3

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 Maj7#11 Chords

 

Here are 12 different Cmaj7#11 drop 2 chords, which have the interval structure:

 

  • Root Position – R-#11-7-3
  • 1st Inversion – 3-7-R-#11
  • 2nd Inversion – #11-R-3-7
  • 3rd Inversion – 7-3-#11-R

 

Here are four inversions of Cmaj7#11 on the lowest four strings of the guitar.

 

drop 2 chords maj7#11 1

 

You can now learn these chords on the middle four strings.

 

drop 2 chords maj7#11 2

 

Finally, you can play these chords on the top 4 strings of the fretboard.

 

drop 2 chords maj7#11 3

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 Chords Exercise 1 – Qualities

 

The first exercise is based on finding chords that are only one note different from other shapes, and then moving between them on the fretboard.

Here’s my favorite example of this exercise that covers 5 different chord types in one exercise.

Play these chords using drop 2 shapes in C before moving them to other keys.

You can use any string set, and any inversion, to outline these shapes, just stick to the same one each time through the exercise.

So, if you play the first Cmaj7 chord as a 1st inversion on the middle four strings, keep that outline as you then move to the other chords in the exercise.

 

Drop 2 Chords Guitar Exercise 1

 

To help you take this progression to your studies, here’s a sample version of the above exercise.

 

Click to Hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 1

 

Drop 2 Chords Guitar Exercise 2

 

Here’s another progression that I like to use where the second chord is built by altering one note from the first chord shape.

 

Drop 2 Chords Guitar Exercise 3

 

To help you take this progression into the practice room, here’s a sample version.

 

Click to hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 2

 

Drop 2 chords guitar exercise 4

 

Lastly, here’s another chord progression you can use to memorize various types of drop 2 chords.

 

Drop 2 Chords Guitar Exercise 5

 

And here’s a sample of this exercise to work on in your jazz guitar practice routine.

 

Click to hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 3

 

Drop 2 Chords Guitar Exercise 6

 

Once you’ve worked through these progressions, come up with your own progressions to work drop 2 chords in the woodshed.

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 Chords Exercise 2 – Major ii V I VI

 

This exercise outlines major key ii V I VI changes using drop 2 voice leading.

Begin on any iim7 drop 2 chord, and then move to the closest V7 chord, Imaj7, and VI7b9 chord in that area of the fretboard.

Here’s how that looks on the guitar.

 

drop 2 chords exercise 2

 

When doing so, you will always use the following inversions for each chord.

 

  • R-2nd-R-1st
  • 1st-3rd-1st-2nd
  • 2nd-R-2nd-3rd
  • 3rd-1st-3rd-R

 

This order of inversions is the same for major and minor ii V I vi progressions, so it’s worth memorizing.

Once you’ve worked out the example, move to other inversions of Dm7 on the top-4 strings and voice lead the chords from there.

Then, move on to different keys on that string set, and onto other string sets before applying these shapes to a full tune.

 

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 Chords Exercise 3 – Minor ii V I VIs

 

You can then repeat the previous exercise with minor key ii V I vi chords, as in the following example.

When doing so, you use the progression:

 

  • iim7b5
  • V7b9
  • ImMaj7
  • vim7b5

 

Here is how those chords look on the guitar.

 

drop 2 chords exercise 3

 

Once you have these shapes in various keys and string sets, take them to a tune such as Autumn Leaves, which has both major and minor ii V Is.

 

 

 

 

Drop 2 Major ii V I Chord Phrases

 

As well as running drop 2 chords through progressions, it’s important to learn vocabulary that uses drop 2 chords in your studies.

The following chord licks use drop 2 chords over the most common jazz chord progression, the major ii V I.

Each of these phrases can be used in your comping, chord soloing, or chord melody as you apply them to a musical situation.

Because you applying these phrases in real time, learn them in the original key first, then take them to other keys from there.

As well, jam over a jazz standard and apply each lick one at a time to your chord soloing and comping.

This approach prepares you to apply these licks in a jam situation, as well as how they sit on the fretboard in various keys.

There are backing tracks provided to practice them in the given key, as well as audio to play along with when learning each phrase.

To begin, here’s a Joe Pass inspired drop 2 lick that outlines a short major ii V I progression.

Notice the chromatic passing notes, Gb and Eb, used to add tension to the line.

As well, a Bm7b5 drop 2 chord is used to outline the 3 to 9 shape over G7.

If you’re new to this, check out my lesson on extended jazz guitar chords for background on using drop 2 chords in this manner.

 

Backing Track Drop 2 C Major Short Backing

Click to Hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 4

 

Drop 2 chords ii V I VI 1

 

The next line is a mixture of Joe Pass and Ed Bickert.

Again, Bm7b5 is used over G7, as well as Bbdim7 and Gdim7 over A7b9 in the last bar of the phrase.

The opening run is a classic Joe Pass lick; one you should extract and apply to any m7 in your chord soloing, comping, and chord melody.

 

Backing Track Drop 2 C Major Long Backing

Click to Hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 5

 

Drop 2 chords ii V I VI 2

 

The final major ii V I phrase uses chord scales to outline each chord.

Here, you use diatonic chords, and one passing chord (F#dim7), to outline the progression.

This approach adds movement to the progression, creating interest beyond the shapes you’re playing in the lick.

 

Backing Track Drop 2 C Major Long Backing

Click to Hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 6

 

Drop 2 chords ii V I VI 3

 

 

 

Drop 2 Minor ii V I Chord Phrases

 

You’ll now apply drop 2 chords to minor key chord progressions.

In this first phrase, you use a common application over the first two chords.

Here, you play Am7b5 over Am7b5, then over D7alt, you play Cm7b5.

When doing so, you create a 7alt sound.

This allows you to use the same shapes over the iim7b5 and V7alt chords, creating different sounds over each shape.

Then, over the Gm7 chord, you use Bbmaj7 for the first shape of that chord.

This is another 3 to 9, similar to G7 in the previous 3 licks, only here it’s applied to a m7 chord.

When playing m7 chords, you can play a maj7 chord from the b3 to outline a rootless m9.

 

Backing Track Drop 2 G Minor Short Backing

Click to Hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 7

 

Drop 2 chords ii V I VI 4

 

The next line is played over a long minor ii V I progression in G minor.

You use Am7b5 inversions over the first bar, then Ebdim7 and F#dim7 shapes over D7alt, common ways to outline those two chords.

in the third bar, you be use the Joe Pass m7 run you saw in the major ii V I section, this time over the tonic m7 chord.

The line then finishes on a Bbmaj7 chord over Gm7 to produce another example of a rootless Gm9.

 

Backing Track Drop 2 G Minor Long Backing

Click to Hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 8

 

Drop 2 chords ii V I VI 5

 

The final minor ii V I phrase uses a static rhythm, chords on the & of 1 and 3, to outline the changes.

Beyond that, you use a C7sus drop 2 chord to create a Gm11 sound over the last chord.

By lowering the 5th of Gm7 by a tone, you create a Gm11, which is the same shape as a C7sus chord.

This isn’t a common sub, but it’s one that adds flavor to your comping and chord soloing.

 

Backing Track Drop 2 G Minor Long Backing

Click to Hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 9

 

Drop 2 chords ii V I VI 6

 

 

 

Drop 2 Blues for Alice Chords

 

To finish your introduction to drop 2 chords, here’s a study written out over the changes to Charlie Parker’s tune Blues for Alice.

Go slow when learning this study, learning two or four-bar phrases one at a time until they’re comfortable on the fretboard.

From there, connect each phrase to form the whole study.

There’s a backing track included so you can practice playing this study and comp over with the drop 2 chords you learned in this lesson.

 

Backing Track Blues for Alice Backing Track

Click to Hear Drop 2 Chords Guitar 10

 

Drop 2 Chords Blues For Alice 1

 



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